Acting on a dream

Jan 162006
Authors: Caroline Welch

The Fort Collins, Loveland and CSU communities came together Monday to celebrate the continuation of a dream.

The events, themed "R!se Up: You Are the Dream," marked the 10th anniversary of the Fort Collins' Martin Luther King, Jr. celebration that included inspirational speeches, a march from the CSU Oval to Linden Street in Old Town and cultural music from Ram Nation Drum Group and the Rainbow Chorus.

In her speech, Blanche Hughes , associate vice president for student affairs at CSU, told the audience of her dreams and King's call to action. Sharing a piece of her childhood, Hughes spoke of a little girl who knew she could go to college and wanted to become a teacher.

Hughes said she never thought she would become an associate vice president at a predominantly white university.

"I personally owe so much to those who came before me," Hughes said. "This march is a reminder to us all that this country use to be a lot different."

But the change came not from a dream, but from acting on a vision.

"It was not enough for Martin Luther King, Jr. to dream about equality," Hughes said. "He had to rise and become the dream. Now we have an obligation to do the same."

Blane Harding , professor of ethnic studies at CSU, echoed the call to action in his keynote address in Old Town, following the march.

Harding spoke of the need to move beyond reciting the "I Have a Dream" speech and attending yearly events to focusing on action throughout the year.

"It is not enough to show up a few days a year," Harding said. "We need to keep the conversations going."

Harding also challenged the community to take a step back and think about how it is embracing diversity.

While CSU holds many cultural events throughout the year, like Disability Days, Cinco de Mayo and the annual Pow Wow, the demographics have held steady.

The number of black students on campus has remained at 400 for the past 10 years and there are still no black deans at CSU, Harding said.

"We still have the majority making decisions for the minority with very little minority input," Harding said.

Cautioning against the use of King as a legend to illustrate progress, Harding said the legend of one man could grow to become a myth and make others think they cannot make a difference. Instead, Harding suggested that each person can make a difference in his or her own way.

"As ordinary human beings, we can and we will make change," Harding said.

But the work will take the effort of many.

"Don't let the few do the job for the many," Harding said, encouraging the audience to give just an hour a week to a cause they believe in. "We can't help everyone, but everyone can help someone and that is what we need to do."

Recognizing the complaints he has heard that northern Colorado lacks diversity, Harding said, "We need to work with what we have to make our community a safe and comfortable place to live."

As an emcee for the events, senior Aisha Williams , president of the National Pan-Hellenic Council, said she was honored to be part of the celebration.

"There are still hate crimes in the nation, in Colorado and in Fort Collins," Williams said. "It is important to be a part of this. It really is up to us to rise up and make his dream a reality."

Kim Korkow , a teacher at Discovery Montessory, a kindergarten through fourth grade school in Fort Collins, said she brings her students to the event every year.

"Martin Luther King, Jr. was a peaceful protestor," Korkow said. "We believe in a peaceful approach to conflict."

Annie Birkel , a sophomore English major at CSU, said she came out to support her fellow classmates and recognize the need for more progress.

"It is a good thing to be informed on. The events show that we're not there yet and there is still work to be done." Birkel said.

Caroline Welch can be reached at

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